- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska opened up a 22-point lead in the first half, then watched South Dakota cut that lead to two before the Huskers were able to turn back the upset bid 73-61 on Saturday.

“I was really proud of our guys to perform down the stretch,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “South Dakota competed really hard and really, I thought, out-competed us the second half. When you get punched in the mouth, you can’t look at that and say ‘Oh gee, what’s going on, do I have any teeth left?’ You’ve just got to swallow them, spit the blood out and keep battling.”

Nebraska (5-3) hit 10 of its first 15 shots, 4 of 7 from 3-point range, while the Husker defense stifled South Dakota (6-4). The Coyotes hit just 2 of their first 11 shots and turned the ball over six times in the game-opening stretch that saw Nebraska lead 26-4 with 11:23 left in the first half.

“We looked like Edward Scissorhands out there for the first eight minutes or so - a lot of turnovers, just driving in there and playing volleyball, throwing it up there and seeing what happened,” said South Dakota coach Craig Smith “We had to adjust and once we finally kind of settled in, I really liked we saw our of team. I thought we had great resolve. I’m proud of how we played when we got down 22 in a hostile environment.”

Nebraska led 41-21 on Jack McVeigh’s 3-pointer with 2:53 left in the half, but the Huskers hit just one field goal and a pair of free throws the rest of the half and the Coyotes trailed 45-31 at halftime.

The Huskers made 5 of 16 shots against South Dakota’s zone defense to open the second half and turned the ball over eight times. Nebraska hit 33 percent of its shots in the second half.

“Credit to them,” said Nebraska forward Michael Jacobsen. “They definitely switched defenses and pressed and did some things that kind of got us on our heels and out of our attack mindset, which I thought was pretty good at the outset of the game.

“Credit to them, no doubt. They definitely switched defenses and pressed and did some things that kind of got us on our heels and out of our attack mindset, which I thought was pretty good at the outset of the game.”

Trailing 56-42 in the second half, the Coyotes went on a 12-0 run, cutting the Husker lead to two on Matt Mooney’s layup with 7:30 left. Nebraska’s Tai Webster countered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to five and McVeigh’s 3 with 2:45 left made it 67-58.

McVeigh finished with 16 points and made 4 of 9 from behind the arc.

“McVeigh hit some big shots in the second half,” Smith said. “He got a groove going, exactly what he needed early on, hit three 3s in the first half and started feeling it. Then hit a couple big 3s in the second half when we were in the midst of a big-time run. Coach (Miles) has been upfront and honest about it, they’ve got to make some threes that way.”

Webster scored 12 points with three 3s for Nebraska and Michael Jacobson added 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: Saturday’s contest against South Dakota was a breather in the Huskers challenging pre-conference schedule. Nebraska played No. 11 UCLA the Friday after Thanksgiving, traveled to Clemson last week and will face No. 10 Creighton and No. 4 Kansas in its next two games.

South Dakota: South Dakota, which has four players on its roster from the state of Nebraska, is off to its best start since joining NCAA Division 1 in 2008.

POSTGAME COMEDY

Smith was an assistant with Miles at four different schools, including Nebraska, before taking the South Dakota job two years ago. They did the postgame press conference together, turning it into a comedy act.

“I figured if we didn’t do a joint press conference I’d never get him out of here,” Miles said opening the press conference.

“I’m surprised you let me talk,” Smith replied. “In 11 years, I didn’t say a whole lot.”

“I had a lot of answers,” Miles said.

UP NEXT

Nebraska will host in-state rival Creighton Wednesday

South Dakota will return to Vermillion to host Montana State Wednesday.

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